The poster was strategically glued high on an electricity pole with huge fonts that read “Mganga kutoka Tanzania”. On the list, the advert owner claimed to be a specialist in “CASINO REVENGE, NGUVU ZA KIUME, [Loosely translated: manhood strength/power/libido or whatever you could call it]; there was also “LOVE PORTION” and “EMPLOYMENT CHARM” among others”. What pulled me closer was the last bit “BUSINESS RING”! I made the decision. I was going to see him.
I quickly called.
A man with the heaviest vocals introduced himself as “Swaleh”. His heavy hoarse voice thundered into my innocent ears. Was he trying to scare me? Or it was just by chance that the voice blended well with this business! I didn’t know then… Initially, I thought I would meet a sweet clean Swahili accent. I should have run away immediately when Swaleh (the witchdoctor alias Mganga) said, “Kalibu” “tutasinda” instead of “karibu” and “tutashinda”. His accent was exactly like that of my long term friend Maina. Even Kinyanjui, a distant neighbor made the same grammatical errors in his speech!
Stay with me…
Either way, I had suffered for too long in poverty to the extent that I was willing to “consult”. If Swaleh had the magic portion to treat my condition, I was going to have it; immediately.
For those who don’t know, I had invested all my money in business-I owned a shop (duka as commonly known) at Amboseli, near Kawangware 46. In a desperate move to beat my competitors and at the same time consolidate all the services one was likely to require, I got an Mpesa line. Just on the right side of the entrance, I also built shelves and put fresh tomatoes, kales, onions and fruits.
This clever move of establishing these 3 businesses in one joint was aimed at attracting a majority of the residents of the dusty and fairly impoverished Amboseli area. Don’t forget that I had to borrow Kshs. 30,000 from a women-group sacco (Chamaa); I tapped on the connections of my wife who had been a member of the group for 6 years. I didn’t exactly borrow, I forced my wife to get me the money since she was the treasurer. We had to fight.
Anyway, the first week of starting business rekindled my ancient lingering desire of being a millionaire. I was excited about the number of people who thronged into the shop especially during evenings to do their shopping in my ‘mini-mall’. I even considered calling my niece, who had scored a D- in her K.C.S.E (she had narrowly escaped an E; it was the year students had question papers a month to the exams; she also had all the papers), to come and help me in the shop.
It was melodious going home at almost 12 pm after refusing to continue selling to one or two customers who kept coming even at that time.
My happiness could have healed my ulcers had not Njoroge started the same business, just adjacent to mine. He even created shelves and brought in fresh vegetables too. The only difference was that he added cereals to the stand. He also had boiled eggs, smokies and mutura besides his shop; a teenage boy with a Mohawk shave sold them from morning to evening. The boy was even making more money than me. That was almost at the end of week two.
The several customers I initially had disappeared almost immediately after my competitors came; mostly the ones I had given goods on credit. I lost the monopoly I had enjoyed for a week and half. By the fourth week, two others had established several shops; Mwangi wa Cereals and Mama Njeri.
To make matters worse, Mama Njeri started offering slight discounts on the commodities she sold. Everyone was attracted by the Kshs. 2-5 discount she offered. What really threw us out of business was Mama Njeri’s daughters whom she had intentionally stationed at her shop.
They were not the kind of daughters one looked at once and went his way. They were brown and soft. By soft I mean, their faces beamed with youthfulness and their voices were intentionally weak…they had coloured their voices with words like, “Aki we-i-we” “dear” “nataka”.
They usually wore tight pairs of jeans to call upon anyone who whether willingly or unwillingly saw their behinds which were equally sizeable; if size has anything to do with how they moved up and down.
No man ever easily came to my shop as soon as the two girls came into the game. I was lucky to serve one or two men and it was purely because I caught them red-handed going to the other shops; you know how it is with friends. Most of them came to my shop when they wanted goods on credit.
After about a month and half of trying to salvage the business I had started, my wife’s Chamaa members came for their money. It was so urgently needed because one of the Chamaa member needed an urgent operation.
My wife had to hide.
I sent the Chamaa representatives Kshs. 10, 000 from my Mpesa float. They left and came back in huge numbers. They had suspected that their money had been misappropriated. My wife had openly hid when she saw the chairlady and her chief whip approaching our homestead.
They took our music system (a black Sanyo hoofer), our new 16 inch TV and some shop merchandise.
Obviously they destabilized my business further. Nkt.
My wife’s moods had also changed abruptly. She was becoming intentionally rude. She couldn’t answer my questions respectively. For instance,
Me: Mama Allan, kuna maji? Nataka kuoga.
My wife: Sijui Nenda uone kwa bafu!
Me: Mama Allan, watoto wamekula?
My wife: Hapana. Wametapika!
There are days which she formed her own songs with lyrics that matched my condition. I heard her mention things like “a lazy man who can’t manage a shop”, “cursed be the thief that stole her 30,000”…
What annoyed me most about my wife was the fact that she was so free with Mwangi wa Cereals. She wouldn’t pass by his shop without stopping for a few minutes to chat talk with him. Usually, heavy laughters could be heard from their direction, even as their hands met and clapped on the air once or twice. How could she betray me by talking to the man who had injured me financially? Was she happy that I didn’t have money?
It was on the day that I had gone to buy more merchandise (these purchases rarely occurred) that I came face to face with the “Mganga” advert.
So, I read it about 4 times. Passersby watched me as I interrogated the poster. There are some that saw me take my black “mulika mwizi” phone out of the left pocket. When they saw my face going up and down from the poster to the phone and back, they knew that I was dialing the number. Anyway, I called as I walked away and booked an appointment the same evening.
At around 6 pm, I was standing at the entrance to a gated land that had a huge poster outside written, “this plot is not for sale”.
The plot itself had overgrown grass and un attended flower trees.
The compound was awfully quiet and deserted. I didn’t understand how a mere witchdoctor managed to own a piece of land in Kilimani. After waiting for about 10 minutes at the gate and seeing that there was no one, I called the number again. I was told to remove my shoes as soon as I stepped into the compound. There were 5 pairs of shoes by the gate. All were feminine. I was instructed to walk to the opposite side of the house. There was an open door.
On the door step, I found a skin which looked exactly as a hyena’s….at least from the photos and videos of Nat Geo World, a program I really loved. There were dead and dry crows stationed near the door. They had been positioned to face anyone coming to the door.
Before I knocked, the door flung open and led to an empty room, that was only illuminated by the light of one bulb, with a man adorned in traditional wears seated in the middle of the room. He had all sorts of beads around his arms and legs. He was bare-chested exposing his forest of hairs to clients. Stupid, right?
He had two mats just in front of him. One had several handcrafted tools which resembled various unique wild animals like Warthogs, Snakes and Marabou Storks. The other mat was obviously for the visitor to sit on.
I kept thinking of how the guy managed to open the door and go back to seat comfortably within those few seconds. Finding no answer, I concluded that he had some kind of magic.
To ensure that he had all my attention…. the bulb went off suddenly and there was real unpenetratable darkness. I didn’t hear the switch being pulled. To make matters worse, weird voices as of ghosts started coming from all directions. If you have watched Nigerian movies, you will understand.
That weird situation lasted almost 3 minutes. Within those minutes, I had sweat to the extent that my clothes were totally soaked. I was shaking too! The man was busy uttering things that I couldn’t understand in the form of “sabakanto, labosakalama jeh sekento mashalakiso lobokasa”! What made matters worse was when a cold thing swept through my shoulders like a soft hand of a baby. I jumped up and yelled like a lady [no offence to ladies]. In a matter of seconds, I was at the door pulling and shoving it. I threatened to break it down and leave the house. The witchdoctor laughed hysterically and ordered me to sit down. If you think that men don’t cry, ponder about it again.
It is in that scenario that the Mganga asked for Kshs. 6,000. I had prepared myself with Kshs. 4,000 but my Mshwari had more than Kshs. 3000. I didn’t have time to even negotiate. I didn’t even need the magic wand to make me rich; I just wanted to leave.
I trembled even as I dialed numbers on my old phone….in the wee darkness. Immediately the money was sent, the lights came back on. Besides the Mganga, there was a very short man. He could have passed as a child but his beards told yet another story. He was adorned in the same attires. The mganga referred to him as Baba.
Mganga: Unaitwa nani?
Me: Allan Kibet.
Mganga: Sema usaidiwe. Baba amekuja.
Mganga: Imefanya nini?
Mganga: Baba, unakumbuka tulimwona kabla hajafika. Ulianiambia anataka biashara iwe sawa. [Baba, you remember that we saw him before her got here. You told me that he wants his business to be okay]
The guy called Baba stood up and the lights went off again. He rotated around me severally while thumping the floor hard, as one dancing to an Isikuti song in the deepest part of Western County where music and strength go hand in hand.
He was shaking some “bottle” with stones in the inside, and so I thought.
He spilled saliva all over my head in the name of blessings and when the lights came back on, he mixed some ash for me to drink. He also gave me some to sprinkle at the doorstep to my shop and another darker portion to sprinkle on the doors of my competitors. By then, I had relaxed a little because they kept asking one or two questions…
However, as I walked out, I noticed a thin wire extending from the position the Mganga sat to the door. I didn’t think much about it till I got home.
Things became worse that same evening. I had a very severe diarrhoea that threatened to expunge my intestines out. I had diarrhea until my behinds couldn’t take it anymore, they were literally on fire.
At night, I walked through the doors of my neighbour’s shops and sprinkled the ash. For the first time in a long time, I felt fulfilled again. I knew that I was finally going to win and that my business could align itself. I slept comfortably that night as I waited for a fresh start.
I was going to win but two things happened. The next day at around 9am, my wife left the house with her belongings and at around 9:15am, I saw her washing utensils at Mwangi wa Cereals’ house. A pick-up car arrived at around 9:30am and men were called to offload merchandise to the shops around. Apparently, they had started a merry-go-round Chamaa to increase their shop goods.
I wasn’t invited.